Over the last few months Carbine Studios have been slowly pulling the curtain back on a number of features for WildStar that, up until now, we had barely seen anything about. Customisation options were one such thing, Adventures were another, and we recently got a look at some of the Raids players will be (almost certainly) punished by during the developer panel at PAX East. However, one topic has been left until the very last second to discuss and it’s a pretty big one – Warplots. This PvP-centric mode aims to kick team-based combat up a notch with something that is part base raiding, part tower defence, and all-out warfare as two teams of 40 max-level players duke it out for supremacy.
It’s basically as if the original incarnation of World of Warcraft’s Alterec Valley and indie title Orcs Must Die! had a baby, and then many Chua were rained upon it for kicks – that’s pretty much Warplots in a nutshell.
You can get a general overview by watching the latest in-game engine-powered Flick embedded above, but you’re probably after some more details or something, and thankfully I have many to throw at you. Earlier this week, select members of the press were invited to watch a demonstration of Warplots in action, with a rather ill Lead PvP Designer Jen Gordy (who was suffering from PAX Flu at the time) providing commentary on what we were watching whilst giving us more detail into what options would be available for potential Warparties (yep, that means no hands-on experience just yet, but stay tuned – I assure you we’ll have something in the near future.)
The first thing any player wishing to jump into the game mode will want to do is form a Warparty – a team with a fixed size of 80 players that can be made up entirely of Guild members or can be formed from an alliance of different Guilds or Circles, and from there the person in charge has many options at their disposal. “It has a Warparty bank that you can store Warplot related item in, there’s a Warparty related chat channel, and there are customisable ranks so you can set up a warparty rank type with various permissions for both building and for match gameplay,” Gordy explained. She then went on to detail how each Warparty will have a ELO-style rating, and each player having a Warplots specific rating as well. “The team’s rating for the Warparty will grant them access to special modifications,” she said, “and will be used for season rewards where your personal rating will be within a threshold of the team rating in order to qualify for the reward.”
The same system will also factor into matchmaking, ensuring Warparties are always facing someone of equal skill, but what if your Warparty doesn’t have 80 active players when you want to play? That’s where the Mercenary system comes into play – random players who aren’t a part of a Warparty but fancy jumping into some 40 vs 40 PvP slaughter – although personal ELO ratings will again factor into pairing these mercs up with a Warparty of similar skill. I asked Gordy if the Mercenary system would allow groups of players to queue up together, should a bunch of friends decide they wanted to play a Warplot match without needing to dive into the management that a Warparty might bring with it. “You don’t necessarily have to be solo, you can have a group of mercenaries group up and then queue as a group” she answered. “What will end up happening is that [the system] will find a medium rating for that group and then use that to match them to an appropriate Warparty.”
Building your little slice of destruction
Once the Warparty is created, the next item on the agenda is kitting out your Warplot for the battle ahead by using a recall ability similar to when players teleport back to their player housing. This is done before queuing for a match, with Gordy explaining that allowing time for preparation is key to success in Warplots. “…we have separated out the customisation experience from the actual gameplay because we wanted you to be able to spend as much time as you wanted to within that space,” Gordy began, “so when you use the recall ability you will go into a build map where the warplot is flying above in the sky. Your warparty members can come in there with you if they have the permissions in their ranks that the warparty leader has set up, so they can also help with the customisation process, but this is a ‘take your time, figure out what you want to do’ sort of situation before you queue up for a match.”
In total there are seven modifiable areas for Warparties to allocate plugs and modifications to, and much like the housing system there are different sizes and types (something we’ll learn more about shortly). “There are also several other features of the warplots,” Gordy continued. “You have stairs and walkways that can be used to easy descend certain parts of the base, there are two generators at the back and these are used for a match objective… and there are team-centric force fields (ie. the Red team can only pass through Red ones, Blue through Blue.)” That said, the heart of the Warplot experience is choosing which plugs to place, and to this Warparties must spend War Coins to install them. “When the war party is first created they are given an initial lotment of War Coins,” Gordy began, “[and these are used to] buy the modifications and the free-place traps and turrets that we have for the Warplot. The team can earn war coins by completing Warplot PvP matches, and you get the lion’s share just by competing –we don’t care if you win or lose. The team get a bonus amount of war coins if they win, and the team will also get war coins if they destroy enemy modifications.”
Plug Types, & Traveling in style
There are a number of different plot types in a Warplot, each with a specific role, and each one comes with a maintenance cost that Warparties will need to consider throughout a match. “This is rolled up into the total shown on the landscape UI, Gordy explained. “This is important because you can build for a high battlecost, or you can build for a low battlecost, or something inbetween. This particular stat is going to be used for an Attrition win,” which we’ll get to later.
The first one of these plugs we got to see in action was the travel plug, allowing different ways for Warparties to get around their base or the battlefield. “For example there is an intra-pod transport that will spawn pads inside the warplot base so you can quickly travel to and from key locations inside the base, primarily a defensive style transport plug,” Gordy explained. “We also have a teleport centre so that if you are out on the battlefield and need to come back quickly to defend, that particular plug will give you an ability you can use to travel back to your base instantly, but the one we showed was a deployment station [which is travel plug where] the player will go up to the plug pads and then based on the pad chosen will be hot-dropped onto a location in the battlefield via rocket pod.” Gordy went into explain how each plug has two upgrade states, allowing Warparties to focus on kitting out their Warplot to be good at specific tasks. “In the case of the deployment station the first time you upgrade you’re going to get one of outside pads activated,” Gordy explained, “and then the second time you upgrade it you’ll get the other one so you’ll have five [in total] to use.”
The thing is, the convenience of fast travel – or in fact any ability from a plug – isn’t always certain, as they can be disabled by the enemy during the heat of battle. “Each of these plugs will have a structure unit [which is] the vulnerability point for that modification, so an enemy must attack it with their abilities in order to destroy it.” Once that health bar hits zero, the team loses the benefits it provides, and although player can repair plugs mid-game to restore their abilities using collected resources (something we’ll discuss later) Gordy also pointed out that damage is persistent. In other words, if the Warparty fail to repair it during a match, they will have to spend War Coins in the build map post-match instead.
Laying out the welcome mat (of pain)
The next plug type we were shown was the various types of entrance to the Warplot. “These particular modifications will either add a warplot-wide bonus, or a warparty-wide bonus,” Gordy began as she went onto explain how each of the various entrances provide different defences as well as creating chokepoints. For the demonstration, Gordy gave us more detail on one such entrance plug – the Silo. “With Silo you are funnelled into a defensive grid which [is a series of laser beams],” Gordy explained. “When an enemy player moves through the laser beams they’re going to be taking damage so it might be better to have a small party coming into the silo modification area, destroy the structure unit and then everybody else will be able to come through unharmed.” The other example of an entrance plug is the Military Research Centre which spawns guards to help with the Warplot’s defence, with upgraded versions spawning more defenders.
In addition to this, these plugs also provide buffs, so in the case of the Silo an armour mitigation buff is provided for the Warparty (which made stronger if the plug is upgraded) but players can also retrieve items from it as well. “For silo, when you right-click on it you’re going to get an item that will give you an energy shield for a brief time period, and anybody within that shield radius will have a damage reduction buff applied to them. So those are pretty handy when you’re doing skirmishes in the middle of the map, or want to try and protect certain battlefield objectives.” If that wasn’t enough, certain entrance types even have stationary vehicles such as defensive cannons, so to say there are plenty of ways to repel intruders is most likely an understatement.
Mixing it up with larger plugs
However, those are just the “small” plugs, so at this point we were shown the two types of large plugs available in the hazard plug and the guard plug. “For guard plugs, they’re going to spawn guards on the side of the base they are socketed into,” Gordy explained. “When it is upgraded then it will be giving a health buff to all of the guards, and it’s upgraded a final time it’s going to give a health and damage buff. Guard plugs will also give you an ability that will be accessible on the warplot ability bar – which is a special bar that will appear above your hot bar during the matches – where if you have match resources you can use this ability to summon reinforcements [which will] move from the entrance of the base to enemy warplot, and will help you complete match objectives.”
I can hear the cries of “INCOMING ZERG!” already, although I’m sure there’s a better WildStar equivalent to be created. Something involving Chompacabras, maybe. Whatever.
With the case of most plugs, there are variants available to choose from, and Gordy used the Guard plug as an example of this. “If you choose to go with the defensive variant, like our secure or reinforced version, it will spawn more guards for the base to protect that side,” she said. “If you purchase the offensive variant such as the skilled or expert version, then these will produce more mobile guards and you’ll have a reduced cooldown for the reinforcements ability, so you can continue to send waves of creatures at the enemy.” She went on to elaborate two such types of Guard plugs – “The first one we showed you was the Battlebot plug – these guys come in packs of two and are more DPS orientated, [while] the Ossun plug which produce Osun guard that act more tank-like and have some knockdown abilities.
It was at this point that Gordy brought up a rather interesting point – “The other thing to note about the Ossun plug is that is requires a FabKit in order to be placed down [which can only be] created by an architect, so we do require a little bit of tradeskill intervention if you want to get some of the different plug types. Some plugs will also require Warparty raiding in order for them to be purchased.” Personally, I think it will be interesting to see if Warparties only interested in Warplots will be able to stand up to large guilds that can pull in resources from different wings (ie. dedicated Raiding and crafting sections.)
Besides Guard plugs, Hazard plugs are also available for the larger slots, which Gordy explain go from the entrance of one side of the Warplot all the way to the generator, creating an environmental hazard that players will have come across in the open world PvE content on their way to level 50. The example we were shown was the Nuclear Power Plant, which not only provides damage over time but hits enemies with a debuff to their sprint regeneration. On top of this, walking through it creates a hazard bar in the top left of the UI that, once filled, hits enemy players with higher levels of damage, making it a plug that opposing teams will want to get rid of. Friendly players won’t feel these affects though, as they will automatically be granted hazard suits as they pass through the nuclear waste.
Installing the big red button
Defensive plugs are all well and good, but what about giant weapons capable of bringing the pain on the actual battlefield? That’s what the ‘Super’ plugs are for, allowing Warparties the opportunity to deploy some superweapons. These are mainly offensively-driven plugs, [where you will] have access to an ability on your Warplot bar in the match in order to fire that superweapon,” Gordy explained. “You can only fire that superweapon if you have the match resources to do so, and in the case of the multiple rocket, if you’re out in the middle of the battlefield and you have tons of players around you and use the ability, this is going to fire ten waves of missiles at enemies around [whoever] used the ability. We have different types of these such as the Eldan Beacon which the summons multiple telegraphs of circling pests that might be good to break up turkey fights.”
Or, in the case of the Warplots Flick, that orbital strike. Hot. Damn.
We’re going to need a bigger Warplot…
But what if superweapons aren’t enough? What then? Well, how about a raid boss? “Our boss summoner plug which is a really unique style of plug, Gordy began. “If you have this installed you can go out to a veteran dungeon or raids, and the end boss at the end of the dungeon will have a chance to drop a boss token. You can then take this boss token, put it in your Warparty bank and then you can use it to summon a 20-man holographic version of that boss during the match – [consuming the token in the process.] This boss will defensively patrol your base and will attack players who are trying to destroy generators or trying to get into the base. This boss summoner plug also has an ability that can be used using match resources to send that boss out to the enemy Warplot, and while they are there they will be killing players, they will be killing guards, and they will be trying to destroy generators as well.”
In the demonstration we showed you three [bosses] that were available for war coin costs, we have these available as stock options, but if you want the veteran dungeon bosses like Stormtalon or Mordecai Redmoon you’re going to have to go to the dungeon and you’ll have a chance to receive a token from that boss kill. We also have two raid bosses that we plan to [let you capture] immediately post-launch and these are for our Genetic Archives and Datascape raids. These are consumable – once you use them in the match the coin will disappear from your bank, so you’re going to need to go out there and get another token if you want that boss again.”
Adding the finishing touches
Up until now we’ve detailed plugs that are very much fixed in place, but there are plenty of things Warparties can do to ensure any would-be intruders are in for a nasty surprise with deployables. Warparties will be able to place down items throughout their Warplot in similar vein to the player housing system, but instead of chairs and jabbit plushes, it’s turret and landmines. “We have various types of sentry guns that people can free-place down on the Warplot, “said Gordy. “We have things like sniper turrets with a long line telegraph with high damage, to things like the sonic cannon which has a wide arc with short range but has a knockdown effect applied to them. We also have traps like landmines and laser traps. These traps will be stealthed to enemy players so they will have to move through them very slowly to potentially spot the trap before it detonates. You could have a hundred of them out in the field, but you can also put them in your crate, and the contents of your crate will come with you into the match so you can use them to refill or put them onto the battlefield.”
Being consumables, they are destroyed at the end of each match, so players will need to ensure their Warplots are restocked after each match by heading into the build map. It’s also worth noting that Gordy was quick to state that there are restrictions on where these items can be placed, so don’t go expecting to be able to place a turret on a wall where nobody can reach it or where enemy telegraphs can’t hit you.
Victory by Attrition
So, we know what tools are at your disposal, but how do you achieve victory using them? Gordy used this opportunity to inform us of two meters players will want to watch during a match to ensure their victory – the energy meter and the nano-pack pool. “[For] the energy meter, the base amount is determined by the types of sockets that you build, and the number of those sockets,” Gordy explained. “At the start of the match the energy meter is going to be decremented over time by your total battle maintenance. This is essentially a soft match timer that can also be affected by the enemy team, because any player deaths that you take will decrement from the energy meter and any modification destruction can be decrement that meter, and if a boss is killed it will decrement that meter as well. This is going to be used as one of the ways to win, so you can win by Attrition, and when the enemies Warparty energy meter reaches zero, then you’ve won.”
“The second pool that you need to worry about in match is the nano-pack pool,” she continued. “[It] starts at zero and in order to attain nano-packs you have to capture nano-pack nodes on the battlefield, and there are five of them. [These] are you match resources that we’ve been talking about for upgrades, repair, and using abilities, so anything you have on your Warplot ability bar will require nano-packs, so if you want to use those things you’re going to have to go into the field and capture those resource nodes.”
I asked Gordy if players would be able to turn off plugs to conserve their match resources should the match not be going in their favour – such as in many a RTS game – but she confirmed this wouldn’t be an option to players. “[Plugs] will continue to drain [resources] regardless of its damage state, so you won’t be able to disable it,” answered Gordy. Personally, I think that’s a missed opportunity for an additional layer of tactics, but considering I have yet to get hands-on with mode (soon, Carl. Soon…) it could be that Carbine found such a feature game-breaking in the grand scheme of things.
Victory by Destruction
However, no everyone wants to starve the enemy out, or have the patience for such a tactic. No, sometimes you need to rely on good old fashioned brute force, and there is definitely a way to crush your enemies into submission if you have the firepower. “The second way to win is through generator destruction, so you must go the enemy’s Warplot and destroy both generators that are in the back,” Gordy explained. “In this particular method you’re going to want to watch out for the defences that the enemy team has set up in addition to wanting to control the nano-pack nodes in the middle of the field, because each node that you control will grant a stacking damage vulnerability debuff to the enemy team’s generators.” In other words, it’s going to be tough to achieve, but imagine the feeling of leaving your enemy’s base in ruins.
Looking to the future
As it stands at the moment, the Warplot mode is only available via matchmaking with the ELO rating system, but when asked if Carbine planned to add in an functionality to challenge other Warparties to a fight Gordy was quite upfront with her answer – not at launch. “Right now, since it is a raiding-based system, we don’t have direct challenges,” she began. “A lot of people have asked about that particular feature so if we do add it it will be a post-launch feature and then we would have it set up in such a way that you don’t get access to the ELO rating style rewards from that system. Conversely we can also do tournament-style play, but it all depends upon the desires of the player base post-launch.”
The other topic that was brought up was if the current layout of seven plugs for a Warplot was the only one available, which for the moment is the case.“That’s the only socket layout we have right now, Gordy confirmed. “There is desire to do things like change up the battle map, or change up the socket layout, saving multiple layout configurations – all of those things would be [a part of our] post-launch initiative.”
So there you have it – Warplots. Without getting hands-on its difficult to say if the large scale battles will be able to match the potential we have imagined in our minds for so very long, but I came away from the demonstration and Q&A session with renewed enthusiasm for the mode. With the enjoyable chaotic nature of WildStar’s PvP, and the human element of surprise thrown in with this large scale battlefield, I suspect Warplot matches could be the large scale warfare that World Vs World PvP gametypes that other MMOs haven’t quite got right thanks to the controlled nature of the fight. In the end, we’ll only know for sure when the game goes live, and the clock is ticking ever nearer to that day in June.
A huge thanks to NCSOFT and Carbine for inviting me to the demonstration and Q&A session, and an even bigger round of applause to Jen Gordy who fought through her illness to guide us through the Warplots! Stay tuned for more WildStar coverage hitting the site soon.